Several years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Wertheimer of
National Public Radio about the then extraordinarily popular Left Behind
series. At one point, she asked me if I thought the Left Behind books were
funny. I paused, trying to absorb all the layers of her question, and then came
up with a brilliant answer: "No. Why? Do you?"
"Constantinian" has lately been a favored pejorative in
theological circles. The term--an allusion to the fourth-century Roman emperor
whose conversion to Christianity turned a marginal sect into a state religion--has
been used to deplore any alliance between the church and the state or, more
broadly, between the church and the dominant political culture.
If you wrestle with this Matthean parable through the night, it'll leave
you limping by morning. Martin Luther didn't like preaching on it, and
worshipers in early October won't be in the mood for its judgment.
No one knows how many child preachers there are in Brazil, but estimates run to the thousands. Most of them are Pentecostal. Alani is an 11-year-old who, according to her father, performed her first healing miracle when she was only 51 days old. Convinced that Alani had healing powers, her father placed her infant hand on a woman’s distended stomach—and it immediately deflated. Even within Pentecostal circles, some observers believe that child preachers like Alani are exploited by their parents and other adults (New York Times, June 11).